Consumers that missed the health insurance open enrollment have options

Health insurance - Investigating Options

There are definite financial risks from missing open enrollment, but all is not lost.

The 2024 open enrollment periods for Affordable Care Act health insurance markets have now passed, and many consumers are now wondering what happens if they wanted coverage but didn’t obtain it in time.

Understanding options begins with knowing what the open enrollment period is all about.

The open enrollment period for buying health insurance allows people to purchase their coverage for the next twelve months. Many people already have coverage through work benefits and don’t need to sign up for coverage on the markets created through the Affordable Care Act. However, without another source of coverage, these markets often offer the best way to purchase private coverage.

Health insurance - ACA and considerations

It’s important to purchase coverage during the open enrollment period whenever possible. The reason is that there are financial risks and potential consequences for missing it. Still, this doesn’t mean that consumers that missed the open enrollment period are out of options at all.

Open enrollment is the official period of time when consumers can sign up for a plan or change the ones they already have. By doing this through the federal or state-run marketplaces, many consumers can qualify for subsidies as they purchase coverage regulated by the Affordable Care Act.

What can consumers do about health insurance if they miss the open enrollment period?

If the deadline is missed, there are still some options for signing up for a health insurance plan. For instance, if you had a qualifying life event (QLE), and these issues impacting you or your family are the reason you missed the open enrollment period, you will be granted a special enrollment period in which to enroll or change your coverage at any time.

Among these QLEs (though these are not the only ones) are job layoffs, marriage, divorce or separation, a new dependent in the family (such as a baby, adoption or foster child), changing address to a new county or ZIP code, or other major life changes that cause eligibility to Medicaid or CHIP to be altered.

Short-term health insurance plans can also be purchased in the case that a special enrollment period is not available. That said, it’s important to be very careful when signing up for these plans as they are not available in every state, and many have restrictions that mean that they might not provide much financial benefit at all as they are not required to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s regulations.

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